Small Wars Journal

III MAF Pacification in Vietnam

Via Marine Colonel Phillip Ridderhof as a add-on to the Birtle on PROVN SWJ article (and commentary) by Colonel Gian Gentile - III MAF Pacification in Vietnam.

Phil's comments:

The attachment is four pages that I scanned in from the OSD report "United States-Vietnam Relations 1945-1967" pulled from the stacks at the Gray Research Center back in 2002.

I find it a fascinating read because it represents a DoD critique of the Marine III MAF Pacification approach in the I Corps zone, conducted with the knowledge available at the time. While I'm not in total agreement with what it states, I think it raises the argument above the usual uncritical "Marines had it right" and "CAP was great" conversations that occur within the Corps.

Key points highlighted:

- The Marines took to pacification, a very different strategy, with different strategic resource and time implications, through a chain of command that completely avoided the joint force commander responsible for the campaign (MACV).

- The Marines identified the need to have operational control of South Vietnamese forces in order to conduct this strategy--something the GVN did not want.

- The Marines were drawn into local politics to a larger degree than they expected due to the lack of RVN capability (which really begs the question of success of the whole US venture).

- The Marines failed to get GVN political support because the GVN political apparatus was not consulted in the planning.

Once again, all of these are assertions, but they point to questions on the USMC approach in Vietnam, and COIN campaign design in general.

III MAF Pacification in Vietnam


oldpapajoe (not verified)

Tue, 12/01/2009 - 1:21pm

This is particularly interesting when read in light of GEN DePuy's 1986 essay in Army magazine "Vietnam: What We Might Have Done and Why We Didn't Do It".

If nothing else, the current war in Afghanistan fortunately doesn't have to confront a conventional light infantry enemy army while trying to defeat a insurgent guerilla force as America faced in Vietnam.

The other interesting point DePuy makes is the disconnect between the how the US military saw the war in late 1965-1966 compared to how the White House saw the war. The two were entirely different visions.